Garbage Man Salary: Requirements, Education, and More

There are several public positions readily available. One such position is working in sanitations as a garbage man or woman. While these jobs are not prestigious, the job pays well and comes with city benefits. For those who turned off by the smell, it's quality work and doesn't have many requirements. Exact requirements and pay will vary, depending on the exact location. This is a position nearly every city in the United States depends on yet often goes unnoticed. These professionals work early in the morning, doing everything they can to keep the city clean. However, regardless of the city, working as a garbage man brings with it a number of perks. One of these perks is the garbage man salary.

What is a Garbage Man?

A garbage man is a sanitation professional who is employed either by the city or a private company. Some municipalities have city-run sanitation services while others pay out contracts for third-party service providers. When employed as a garbage man, the main task is to college garbage. Most will work on a garbage truck, driving around neighborhoods collecting trash. Some garbage trucks rely on two-person crews, as one is the driver and the other dumps trash into the rear of the truck. Other trucks only need a single individual in the truck. These trucks are fitted with mechanical arms designed to pick up trash and dump it into the truck, all without the aid of a secondary worker.

The garbage man salary may require an individual to work special events. This includes working fairs and public gatherings. They generally pay workers at these events overtime as the sanitation company is contracted out to come in and service the area following the event. The job requires a level of physical fitness. Hoisting trash cans into the back end of the garbage truck takes a certain level of strength and endurance.

The garbage collectors must keep notes during their delivery. It is not possible to stop the garbage collection process in order to notify a property owner of items not allowed in the garbage. Instead, the garbage collector will need to note the address and the issue. From there, the sanitation company can then contact the property owner through the mail.


To work as a garbage collector an individual needs to have at least a high school education (or GED). They will need to obtain a commercial driver's license. To do this, an individual will need to apply for the license at the DMV. This will include a driving and written test before the commercial license is given. They may hire some garbage men on without the commercial license and work as the secondary member of a two-man crew, or at the main sanitation facility. However, having a commercial driver's license instantly makes an individual that much more desirable as a potential hire.

As more sanitation contractors move away from the two-man crews and to a single driver with a mechanical arm attached to the truck, having a commercial driver's license becomes that much more beneficial.

As someone who drives for work, it is important to have and maintain a clean driving record. If there are any alcohol-related arrests on record, the individual will not receive the job. Should someone find, themselves arrested under the suspicion of drinking and driving they will lose their job as a garbage man.

When applying for the position an individual will need to pass a criminal background check. A drug screening is also likely although if the sanitation position runs through a third-party service provider, they may not require this.

Beyond maintaining a clean driving record, having a high school diploma (or GED) and passing a criminal background check, there is little else required to land a job working as a garbage man. For someone who is interested in moving behind a desk within the sanitation office, some business education may be necessary, but for the standard garbage removal position, these are the standard requirements.


Many individuals begin as the rider on a garbage truck. For two-men crews, the rider will hop off (or ride on the rear of the truck) and pour the contents of garbage cans into the dump truck. There are also positions back at headquarters that rely on individuals maintaining sorting machines and monitoring the disposal of certain items that come in.

For someone who is interested in earning more money, making themselves more attractive to potential contractors or who want to grow in their work, obtaining a commercial driver's license is valuable. This allows the individual to move over in the truck and drive the rig instead of riding in it. As more sanitation contractors move away from the two-man crews and to a single driver with a mechanical arm attached to the truck, having a commercial driver's license becomes that much more beneficial.

There are different positions within the sanitation company an employee can move up to. There is office work someone can take over if they would like to move in from working the truck to the outdoor facility. These positions may require some business and management education although it depends on the contractor in question.

The sanitation field is expected to continually increase over the next several years, with job growth rates expected anywhere between seven and 13 percent. 

As most sanitation jobs are run by the city or part of a union, by maintaining the job an individual will begin to see their garbage man salary increase, usually on an annual basis. This is possible to obtain without moving up within the company.

For individuals who are interested in obtaining such a position, there are several ways to seek the job. First, try going directly to the service provider or city website. It will also list most of these jobs on a job site. However, one of the best ways to identify sanitation positions is to become a member of a sanitation community, like the Solid Waste Association of North American.

An applicant will need to be at least 18 years of age to apply for the position. There are no physical fitness tests an applicant must perform, although before hiring on someone full-time, they will probably be placed as a rider within another crew. This will give the sanitation service provider an idea whether the applicant can handle the long hours on the road and on their feet while constantly loading up trucks with garbage cans.

Working as a sanitation professional is beneficial for someone who is interested in moving, either to a different part of the state or to a different region in the country. Sanitation is a need for every city within the United States, so an experienced garbage man (especially one with a commercial driver's license) will have no problem moving to a different location or into an entirely different state in general. Few other positions can offer this kind of easy transparency.


The average garbage man salary will vary based on location, the position held and experience. Those just starting off will earn around $35,000 annually plus benefits. If the position is part of a union though this annual salary can increase to around $80,000 after a few years on the job.

Salary and benefits will probably vary depending on whether it is employed through the city or through a private company. City workers receive excellent benefits although third-party contractors part of a union may see improved salary with required salary bumps.

The sanitation field is expected to continually increase over the next several years, with job growth rates expected anywhere between seven and 13 percent. With this kind of job growth, it means cities around the country, including those in Illinois, will look to bring on additional workers.

The average garbage man salary will vary based on the location. While the annual introduction salary is $35,000 annually, the amount increases to over $40,000 while in California. States, where unions are openly accepted, will also usually make more money. Garbage men in southeastern states where it is more difficult to unionize will usually not make as much money as in other states. Additionally, annual benefits will vary. It provides health insurance, but the added benefits will vary from location to location and between private or public service providers.


Garbage man with his garbage truck

image creditFlickr

For someone who is interested in steady work, taking a job working sanitation is an excellent option. The position is not as glamorous as others, but it comes with several perks. Garbage man salary is excellent and often works out to around $16 an hour when hired on. It's a good position for anyone who enjoys spending time outside and who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty. There is also usually the potential for working overtime as there are almost always special events that need to be picked up after. With the established schedule, working as a sanitation employee makes it easier to get back home in the evening and spend time with the family.

In terms of positions that provide benefits, salary and the ability to increase one's earning potential, all without having a higher education degree, few other positions can compete with what working as a garbage man.

featured image credit: Flickr

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